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Instagram Stories vs Reels | How to use Each for Your Small Business

If you’re looking to elevate your business to the next level, leveraging the tools of Instagram are going to be one of the best paths to success. But which features are going to give you the best return on your time investment? Today we are highlighting the two powerhouses of Instagram— Reels and Stories. As a Social Media Strategist who has had extensive experience with both, I am here to share the difference between the two and guide you on where you should be focusing your efforts.

If you are completely new to Instagram, not to worry. I will be breaking down what each of these features are and how they function.

Let’s get into it!

What are Instagram Stories?

Stories are a slideshow-style feature of Instagram that allow you to share photos or videos to your profile that will disappear in 24-hours time. Stories do not appear in your feed and are meant to be short, little glimpses into your daily life. Those most likely to see them, however, are users that already follow your account since they are only accessible through your profile image. Stories can be interacted with by your audience via likes and DMs and they can also be shared by others (more on how Story sharing can be beneficial later).

Add interest to your stories with things like stickers, text, links and hashtags to help get conversations going or just to add a little color and fun to the post. Stories can easily be created right on the app, a time saving bonus for busy entrepreneurs who don’t have time to fuss with fancy video editing software.

What are Instagram Reels?

Reels are Instagram’s short-form video feature. Created to rival the ever-popular platform, TikTok, Reels took the social media world by storm, becoming Instagram’s fastest growing feature since its launch in 2020. With a 90 second time limit, Reels are designed to capture and hold your audience’s attention in a short burst of time. Unlike Stories, Reels are not ephemeral and they live in your feed with your static posts.

Reels, like Stories, can be made by recording and editing using Instagram’s built-in tools. Reels, however, are not as casual or informal as Stories and do require a little more planning and polishing. Some content creators opt to use third-party apps such as Capcut to make this task easier. These apps provide easy to use templates and offer additional editing capabilities that can add interest to your Reel.

I know you came into this with the intention of learning which one of these two Instagram features will best help build online recognition for your brand, but the truth is—

You should be using both.

Sorry to burst your bubble!

Both Reels and Stories play their own part in growing your business’ social media account. Let’s talk about the significance and function of each in more depth so that you can understand why.

How Stories Can Help Your Business Grow

To start with, Stories are more accessible, as they are located in the upper portion of the screen when you open Instagram. This increases the chances that your followers will see that you have Stories available to view and click. Consistently sharing Stories on your account helps your business stay at the forefront of your followers’ minds. Since Reels are located within your profile’s feed, they are less accessible to your followers unless they actually click onto your account.

Stories also provide a great opportunity for your audience to engage with your account. Interactive stickers can be added to stories to encourage engagement such as questions, polls, quizzes and more. Stories also offer the opportunity to connect with collaborators through mention stickers. Let’s say an influencer mentioned your product in one of their posts. You can then reshare that post on your Stories and use a mention sticker as a shout-out to the original poster.

Instagram Stories’ main function for your business is to maintain a good relationship with your existing audience.

Stories help encourage engagement and build loyalty through authentic interactions. This is a great way to boost your overall engagement rate on Instagram, which the algorithm LOVES. Engagement rate is one of the most important ranking factors on Instagram and a higher engagement rate means the algorithm is more likely to push your content to the top of your followers’ feeds.

Fostering a good relationship with the followers you currently have is so important. Sure, you could have 100,000 followers, but while that number sounds impressive, what you really should be asking yourself is— how many of those followers have the potential to be actual customers? After all, the goal is NOT a high follower count, but instead, conversions from followers to sales.

Quality over quantity.

The Role of Reels in Your Business Growth

If reaching a wider audience is one of your goals, Reels are going to be your ticket to success. A study done by Socialinsider shows that in 2023, Reels had a view rate of more than double compared to Stories. That’s because Reels are not just presented to your current followers. Reels are discoverable through the Explore feed, a feature of Instagram where users can go to find new content. Your Reels have the chance of showing up to new users organically in the feed or through the Explore search function.

This is great for building brand awareness. If a user enjoys your Reel, there’s a good chance they’ll want to check out the other content on your page.

Reels can be used as a tool to show off your brand’s personality, demo your products or give users a peek into behind-the-scenes magic. It allows you to “sell” your products or services in an organic, unobtrusive way. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold to. Reels wrap business advertising into an easily-digested little morsel of entertainment. No hard sales tactics here.

Ideas for Stories and Reels and Additional Tips

Now that we’ve talked about the advantages of both of these features, how can you use them to boost engagement and help build a following? Here are some ideas I have used as a Social Media Strategist for my clients with stellar results:

Ideas for Stories

  • Post a story sticker asking your audience what they would like to know about your industry, products or services.

  • Use stories to announce new products, sales or giveaways

  • Record yourself doing behind the scenes tasks such as packaging orders or the making your products

  • Share collaborative posts

  • Demo your products

  • Ask followers what product or service they would like to see offered in the future

  • Share UGC (User Generated Content) and add a mention sticker

  • Create a poll related to your brand or industry

  • Promote your new IG post or new Reel

  • Post a quiz related to your brand or industry

  • Build up hype for a new product launch with a countdown

  • Casually speak to your audience about your day

  • Share an inspirational quote or a funny meme

  • Promote a new blog post

Tips: Don’t forget to utilize location stickers, add CTAs whenever possible (for example, “DM me for more details!”) and post consistently.

Ideas for Reels

  • Show alternative ways to use your product(s)

  • Show your process

  • Post a talking head about how your company started

  • Open up about the unglamorous side of being a business owner. Users love authenticity.

  • Post a before and after transformation

  • Give a sneak peek of a new product

  • Showcase your best selling products

  • Create a how-to or tutorial

  • Show your products being used in real-life situations

  • Share a numbered list of your top favorites

  • Give tips related to your service or industry

  • Demonstrate a hack

  • Show Bloopers/Mistakes

  • Introduce yourself and your brand

  • Highlight one of your products

  • Make a POV

  • Bust myths related to your industry

  • Share positive reviews from customers

Tips: Add a trending song to your Reel for maximum reach. Look out for trends and jump on the bandwagon. Make use of in-app captions, they make your Reel more searchable.

As you can now see, both features offer unique ways of engaging with your audience and telling your brand’s story. Incorporating both of these heavy hitters into your marketing strategy can really boost your online presence and help you cultivate a community of dedicated followers. And hey, you don’t have to go it alone!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, schedule your $0 consultation with me where we can go over the gaps in your social media marketing strategy, how to build a standout community of repeat customers and how to create a product aesthetic you’re proud of!

Until next time, keep rocking your brand!



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